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The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: I believe that on all sides of this Committee there is a wish that torture should be on the face of the Bill. That is an important issue and principle. I am certain that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has a genuine intention to protect. But I remind her that she said no doubt mistakes have been made. It is precisely our concern that the fast-track procedure makes it more likely that mistakes would be made in the future. If the Government are concerned at the drafting of sub-paragraph (b) of the amendment, it is open to them--if the Committee agrees to the amendment--to bring an amendment to that to find a more effective wording, but I believe it is right that we should seek the opinion of the Committee and I ask that the amendment be put.

5.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (Amendment No. 3, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 143; Not-Contents, 124.

Division No. 1


Ackner, L.
Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Avebury, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E.
Bancroft, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Birk, B.
Blackburn, Bp.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brentford, V.
Bridge of Harwich, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chichester, Bp.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Cornwallis, L.
Craigavon, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Drogheda, E.
Dubs, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gainsborough, E.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glasgow, E.
Glenamara, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Gregson, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harrowby, E.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Inchyra, L.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Kirkwood, L.
Kissin, L.
Lawrence, L.
Liverpool, Bp. [Teller.]
Lockwood, B.
Longford, E.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Mayhew, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Meston, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L.
Nicol, B.
Norfolk, D.
Ogmore, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Ellesmere, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Rea, L.
Richard, L.
Ripon, Bp.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Sandwich, E.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Stedman, B.
Strafford, E.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tonypandy, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Wallace of Coslany, L.
Warnock, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Wharton, B.
White, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Winston, L.


Addison, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Bethell, L.
Biddulph, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brookeborough, V.
Brookes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Cadman, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cumberlege, B.
Dacre of Glanton, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Digby, L.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gisborough, L.
Goold, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Harvington, L.
Henley, L.
Hertford, M.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Huntly, M.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L.
Kimball, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Mottistone, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Nelson, E.
Northesk, E.
Orkney, E.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Oxfuird, V.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pender, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Quinton, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Rennell, L.
Renwick, L.
Romney, E.
Saint Albans, D.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Sherfield, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Tollemache, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Whitelaw, V.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

23 Apr 1996 : Column 1061

5.46 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 4:

Line 15, leave out ("in general").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 is the third of the amendments to the redrafted Clause 1. It is an attack on the wording which is central to this part of the Bill; namely, that in the judgment of the Secretary of State:

    "there is in general no serious risk of persecution".

We debated this point on Second Reading. I am aware that the wording has not been invented by the Government but is part of an international agreement between officials in the European Union. However, that does not make it any less dangerous. It is extremely dangerous for us to accept that the judgment as to whether there should be a fast-track procedure for an asylum application is that there is "in general" in any particular country a risk of persecution.

23 Apr 1996 : Column 1062

Persecution does not happen in countries in general. It happens to people in particular. It happens particularly to minority groups in countries in which there is no risk of persecution in general to the majority but where there is a very serious risk to the minority.

Before I start to give examples, let me ask the Minister these questions. What does "in general" mean? How would it be interpreted? Does "in general" mean that 75 per cent., 90 per cent. or 95 per cent. of the people in a particular country need fear no risk of persecution? Is it a matter of the severity of the persecution? Would it mean that the risk could involve detention but not torture? Is it a matter of whether there is persecution not of groups but of individuals? All those questions, to which there are and can be no adequate answers, reveal the inadequacy and danger of the phrase "in general".

A number of noble Lords on earlier amendments--indeed in the debate on the clause itself--referred to particular countries in which there is severe persecution of minorities. Perhaps I may give just a few examples. I refer to Pakistan and to the persecution of the Ahmadi population, and, in parts of that country, of the Christian population. In India people in Kashmir and people of the Sikh nation risk persecution, detention and even torture. In Romania, Bulgaria and unfortunately several Eastern European countries, there is persecution of the Roma or gypsy people. All of those are examples of persecution of minorities in countries of which it is fair to say that there is in general no serious risk of persecution. Yet for those people who are in the minorities who are persecuted the issue is as severe as it could be.

I appreciate that the difference here is not between an application being rejected outright and being dealt with properly, but between the fast-track procedure and the more normal procedure. Of course, as soon as we have declared that there is in general no serious risk of prosecution in a particular country that starts to be believed by the immigration officers and it sets the state of mind with which they look at applications from that country. Inevitably, that means that people who are genuinely being persecuted in those countries will be less likely to gain asylum.

Look at the effect on appeals of the designation of such countries. It is still true of course--I acknowledge this, and thank the Government for it--that there must be individual consideration by the adjudicator on appeal, but if that is the case, surely there are going to be that many more appeals. Where then do all the arguments for the saving of time and staff, which lie behind the whole thrust of this Bill, find their justification?

Judge Pearl, the chief adjudicator, giving evidence to the Glidewell panel, pointed out the possibility of a perverse effect, and said that the provisions might actually make things worse. He described to the Glidewell inquiry the situation with regard to appeals--as I was there I heard him myself. There are 2,200 appeals into the system every month and they are settling no more than 700. In other words, there is a net addition of 1,500 appeals every month to the numbers under consideration. He said that if we are going to

23 Apr 1996 : Column 1063

prioritise, as we are required to do, appeals by those who fall under the categories described in Clause 1 of this Bill--they are very wide categories, much wider than the phrase "without foundation" which was used in the 1993 Act--not only will there be a slow-down in the number of appeals; there will be a standstill. They cannot go backwards, but there could be a standstill in the consideration of appeals for those not subjected to the fast-track procedure. That cannot be a sensible way to deal with the undoubted problem of an increase in the number of applications and an increase in the number of appeals.

On Second Reading we had a very considerable debate on the issue of delays and who was responsible for them. I do not think it appropriate, although I have many answers to the Government's arguments, to embark on that debate again in Committee and on a specific amendment. For the practical reasons that it will not save time or money, or solve the delay problem that the Government have identified, and for reasons of principle in that there is a real distinction between actual persecution of individuals and a general risk of persecution in a country as a whole, I believe that the amendment deserves the favourable consideration of the Committee. I beg to move.

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